Pelosi to lay down multitrillion-dollar marker with new coronavirus package

“We will put our bill on the floor, that I can defend, that my people say they need. That’s why I’m supporting any and all measures that protect paychecks,” Horsford said in an interview. “I don’t care if they’re progressive ideas, I don’t care if they’re Republican ideas.”

Pelosi has signaled in calls with members this week that the direct payment proposal — which would likely cost hundreds of billions of dollars — could be included in the leadership plan. But lawmakers and aides say they’re still unsure if it’ll be in the final bill. One member familiar with the discussions said: “It depends what hour you ask.”

“I’m working very hard to get it included. I think it’s extremely important,” Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), a senior progressive, said in an interview. “This will directly impact the most vulnerable people. It’s just a new way of people making sure they have their jobs and have their wages.”

Democratic leaders, led by Pelosi, have been holding dozens of hours of caucus calls in recent weeks. Pelosi herself spoke to both the Congressional Problem Solvers Caucus and the Congressional Progressive Caucus this week, in addition to dialing into the weekly meeting of Democratic chairs and a separate one with the whip team.

Pelosi and her top lieutenants have given several major clues about the next major package. The centerpiece, they say, will be $1 trillion for cash-strapped state and local governments, some of which are on the brink of slashing public services. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell previously indicated that any state aid would need to be married to liability protections for businesses and employees in the next package.

Pelosi has also said funding for expanded coronavirus testing and contact tracing will be a major component of their bill, as well as new protections and potentially higher pay for frontline workers.

The result could be a Democratic-driven package that draws few, if any, GOP votes on the House floor. Democrats, though, hope it will jump start negotiations with Republican leaders who have so far insisted that Congress should wait to gauge the ongoing multi-trillion dollar response before delivering more aid.

In the backdrop of negotiations, Pelosi and other top Democrats are wrestling with a far different debate related to the coronavirus — when and how to bring back the House into full session.

Pelosi has made clear she wants the full House to convene as soon as next week to vote on the next trillion-dollar-plus package. But other top Democrats have been less confident that it will be ready by then — or that it would be safe to bring back members.

“We will vote when it’s ready,” Hoyer told members on the caucus call Thursday, vowing that members would have 72-hours notice to return.

Pelosi and Hoyer are in talks with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) about how to proceed with proxy voting and remote hearings, to allow members to conduct business without needing to risk spreading the disease by returning to the Capitol. The Senate, with a far smaller membership than the House, returned to Washington on Monday.

Yet a bipartisan deal on that rules package still seems out of reach, according to sources in both parties. Hoyer reiterated Thursday that Democrats would push through the rules change next time the House meets, with or without GOP support, a move many in the caucus have been pushing for.

“I think we should have proxy voting. It’s not safe coming from such long distances,” said Lee, who is in her 70s and flew from California for the House vote two weeks ago. “Members of Congress sacrifice a lot and we will continue to do that for the American people but we have to be smart in how we do this.”

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